Nets Sharpshooter Floated as ‘Intriguing’ Target for Boston Celtics

Brooklyn Nets

Getty Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics.

One of the unintended consequences of superstar trades is the talent drain that often follows. The Brooklyn Nets found themselves rapidly unloading their best (and most-recognizable) names at the trade deadline.

They could bear witness to that aforementioned draining of ancillary talent this coming offseason.

“Boston’s reported interest in signing Danny Green (now with Cleveland) on the buyout market, as revealed by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, served up a nice reminder the rotation could use another not-so-small wing,” explains Dan Favale of Bleacher Report. “Yuta Watanabe is more intriguing for both his age (28) and size (6’8″). He is just as plug-and-play on the offensive end, with more on-ball portability than many of the other aging wings to whom heavyweight contenders are traditionally linked.”

The fifth-year former undrafted free agent out of George Washington College is in the midst of a veritable breakout season averaging 6.5 points on 67.2% true shooting thanks in large part to knocking down 48.1% of his threes (56.9% from the corners, as Favale notes) adding 2.6 rebounds and just a shade under 1.0 assists per game. He is on a very economical one-year deal worth $1.9 million and could come in around that number this summer.

“Watanabe doesn’t play nearly enough to incite wild offers from cap-space suitors, and few top-end teams will be working with more than the mini mid-level,” Favale argues. “Guaranteed minutes are more likely to be a sticking point than dollars and cents.”

Despite a potentially team-friendly cap hit, Favale’s last point could be what ultimately sees Watanabe eye greener pastures since the Nets are unlikely to tank.

Watanabe’s minutes have evaporated since the trade deadline.

He averaged fewer than 5.0 minutes over his last two games – even fewer than the 7.0-plus minutes he averaged over his first three games of the season – after seeing 19.5 minutes per game for the bulk of the campaign.

Fans Wanted Yuta Watanabe at All-Star Weekend

Watanabe’s playing time is the reason he wasn’t shown more love in the three-point contest — he does not qualify for the leaderboards. But he also only attempts 2.5 threes per game while the fewest attempts among qualifiers on Basketball-Reference are 3.2 by Jaden McDaniels of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

That does not mean Watanabe does not have his fair share of fans in arms over his exclusion from the upcoming All-Star Weekend festivities.

“Yuta Watanabe is getting a nice pay bump when he hits free agency this summer,” asserted Tas Melas of the ‘No Dunks’ podcast in a video posted on Twitter. “He came into the season just trying to make Brooklyn’s roster. And then he set the Nets on fire. He led the league in three-point shooting through the first month of the season – at 57%! …Teammates and fans have always loved him. And now he’s giving GMs a reason to keep him.”

Melas’ point about Watanabe being destined for a raise cannot be ignored. But Watanabe’s absence from the three-point contest has certainly not been.

Watanabe’s journey has not been linear going from a two-way contract with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2019 then spending time in the G League again after signing with the Toronto Raptors in 2021 to arguably a “should-be” All-Star weekend participant.

It’s certainly not one that he has taken for granted.

Yuta Watanabe: ‘Glad I Didn’t Quit’

“The last time my parents came to America was in the winter of 2019,” Watanabe shared in an Instagram post on February 12. “That time they came to watch the game in Memphis G League. Many things have happened since then, but this time I was able to see an active player on the NBA court from the court side, and once again I thought I was glad I didn’t quit when it was hard.

“In this world that[‘s] full of challenges. That’s why it’s rewarding. Just gotta crawl back up from another one.”

Watanabe’s star is still rising and a spot helping the Celtics compete for a title would only help

Nothing is certain yet. But with all of the changes that have already taken place and those that are sure to come Watanabe’s future was already going to be in doubt in Brooklyn after this season given the short commitment made.

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